new york times no-knead bread: is actually terrific

A few weeks ago the Mark Bittman published an article in the New York Times extolling the virtues of what he called no-knead bread. He got the technique from baker Jim Lahey, and described the bread as completely revolutionary — the sort of bread that was so easy and so good that it would enable a four-year old to make bread better than the vast majority of artisanal bakeries in the country. The article itself (with accompanying video) is now behind the NYT select pay wall but here you can find the actual recipe here.

The Internet went completely bonkers over this recipe. On the Well, the ancient BBS where I often hang out, practically everyone in foodie conferences tried it and with reasonably good results.

I was hugely skeptical and was all set to rant about the recipe without even having the benefit of trying it. My long no-knead bread story in the extended part of this post.

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liveblogging thanksgiving

In case you’re bored or too stuffed to move off of the couch today, I’ve been taking pictures of cooking too much food for dinner today and posting them over on flickr, accompanied by the usual sardonic banter.

Flickr Set – Liveblogging Thanksgiving 2006

Update: I have requests for recipes.

The tart is adapted from this Golden Delicious Tart from epicurious (I used applesauce in the pastry cream, and granny smith apples instead of goldens). BTW although I didn’t think this tart came out all that well Eric has pronounced it Fabulous.

The bread is the famous New York Times No-Knead bread (I have a long post about this coming up).

The stuffed mushrooms I made up, but there’s goat cheese, garlic, and thyme in the stuffing, as well as the mushroom stems. Plus crunchy bread crumbs made from whole wheat croutons.

The spinach salad with tangerines, red onion and citrus dressing is from the Field of Greens cookbook and I can’t find it online. This is a great cookbook but the recipes are really involved. I should have rememebered this when I set out to section the damn tangerine half an hour before the food was ready.

Brussel sprouts are steamed until done and then doused with butter and sage.

The baked pasta with chicken sausage is from somewhere within the Martha Stewart empire (it is just as good with vegetarian faux sausage). I subscribe to both MSL and Everyday Food and enjoy both magazines but they actually spammed me with this recipe. I was initially indignant; spam! gawd! but then the recipe was so darn good that I forgave them. Spam is in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately they have sent me no good recipes since.

today in conversation irony

Scene: the upscale yupster organic veggie grocery affectionately known as “food hole”

Hipster Cashier, to bagger: You really have to be on your A game today, dude.
Stoner Bagger, to HC: Really? Why?
Hipster Cashier: I heard they’re sending in Mystery Shoppers from corporate to watch us and make sure we do a really good job.

(Stoner Bagger promptly drops my eggs onto the counter from a great height. There is a long pause.)

Hipster Cashier, to me: You’re not a mystery shopper, are you?
Me: (enigmatic smile)

one of those days you need a pot of coffee to make a pot of coffee

I put water in the water filter. I got the beans out of the freezer. I washed out the coffee pot. I put the old coffee grinds in the compost bin. I washed out the coffee filter holder. I got a new coffee filter out of the drawer. I put the filter into the filter holder and the filter holder into the pot. I put the beans into the coffee grinder and ground the beans. I measured the water into the pot and put the water into the coffee maker. I closed up the coffee maker and put the coffee pot in place. I pressed “on.” I went to read my mail.

I came back 5 minutes later and my coffee looks awfully light. In fact it looks like I made myself a pot of hot water. What the…?

No coffee in the coffee maker. Nice fresh ground beans in the grinder, hot wet filter in the pot.


red bull: not actually bad for you

…it only tastes like it.

Retrospectacle neuroscience blog analyzes the contents of red bull and their effects on the brain and concludes that:

Red Bull’s “wings” seem to be a largely benign mixture of the stimulants caffiene and sugar (although no more than regular soda or coffee), as well as surprisingly encouraging (if not 100% substantiated) effects from taurine. While it seems doubtful that it truly enhances mental ability or stamina any more than soda or coffee might, the truly intriguing benefits (reduced obesity and hyertension) of taurine supplementation aren’t even part of Red Bull’s advertising schema.

While I was finding the permalink for this red bull post, I also stumbled across Shelley’s discussion on eating contests, specifically the world record breaking hot dog eating contest that happened over this last holiday weekend. In this post I learned the special facts that “Competitive eaters are not allowed to vomit during the competition, at least if the vomit leaves the mouth” (uhhhh…right, ew) and that the world record for mayonnaise eating is 4 32-ounce bowls in 8 minutes.

coffee rantings

I don’t seem to be able to muster up the talent to tell stories these days, so instead I’ll post an old story I posted on The Well a few years back.

Apropos of earlier postings in this topic, I would like to rant.

This last weekend I was up in SF visiting a friend, and we went out for coffee to the local indie coffeeshop in her neighborhood, much beloved by my friend, a coffeeshop whose name I recognized as often mentioned lovingly right here previously in past conversations. I am neglecting to mention both the neighborhood and the coffeeshop for reasons that shall become obvious.

Single barista working the counter, talking to his friend at the other end of the shop. We wait. Barista deigns to stroll over. My friend orders a latte.

Barista proceeds to make the slowest latte order ever. Barista carefully arranges grounds in the espresso holder, tamps, arranges more grounds, tamps again, repeat, repeat. Espresso holder goes in espresso machine, but espresso is not yet produced. Barista turns his attention to the milk. He gazes dubiously at the milk. He taps the milk container on the counter. He gazes at the milk again. He taps it on the counter again. Is he reading our future in the foam? He pours some milk into the container. He taps again. He decides it needs steaming. He sighs.

The steamer wand needs cleaning first, so a scruffy-looking rag is applied to clean off the steamer. There is still no espresso being produced from this machine. Steamer mostly clean to barista’s level of satisfaction but not necessarily to mine, the barista steams the milk. He taps it on the counter again. More steaming. More tapping. I look significantly at my friend. She smiles faintly.

The barista produces a glass. A glass! We have a glass! Milk and foam are applied to the glass. The milk container is placed back on the counter. Now, finally, the espresso machine is turned on. We all wait.

There are now three more people in line. They are staring about the store, at the counter, at the walls, at the ceiling. I’m staring at the espresso, which is almost done. There’s just a few drips left coming from the machine, but barista is waiting for that last little bit. And finally, he declares it done, the espresso is applied to the latte. WHEW.

Barista turns to me, points, and grunts. I order a decaf nonfat latte. Barista sneers openly at me. “We don’t have nonfat,” he says. “We only use whole milk.”

Um. OK. I’ve had a lot of coffee in a lot of towns in a lot of coffeeshops. I’ve been in a lot of out of the way places that have never heard of a latte, and that’s fine, there’s always cappucino or cafe au lait or just plain coffee, light. But this is the first coffeeshop I’ve ever run across that didn’t have nonfat milk and that sneered at me for it. And this is San Francisco, weird food capital of the US. I can get an organic free-trade shade-grown latte with yak milk and valrhona cocoa at a dozen coffeeshops in this city. So I am genuinely taken aback that I am being harshed at for something as…well, as suburban, as nonfat milk.

I change my order to a cappuccino (less milk), and thus begins the slowest cappuccino order ever, with which I will spare you.

So after all that fooforah one would hope that this carefully crafted whole milk cappuccino at this little much-beloved indie coffeeshop would be, indeed, the finest cappuccino ever, right? Nope. Swampy and bitter.

No wonder starbucks and peets are so popular. Yes, they have stupid branded rigmarole but at least its decent consistent coffee and you’re in and out of there in less than half an hour. And they have nonfat milk. Dammit.

really dubious drink ideas

Bottled Pickle Juice.

Dill pickle juice. No pickles, just the juice. Bottled. 16 oz containers.


The Golden Pickle Juice web site claims that pickle juice makes a good sports drink (buh?) or as a mixer for cocktails (euh?). Their Drink of The Month: Golden Jager Blaster. Half and Half Pickle Juice and Red Bull. With a shot of Jagermeister.


And it is claimed repeatedly on the web site that Pickle Juice is not made by a troop of elves squeezing the souls out of pickles.

No Really. That’s what it says. Go look.

I got the link from Slashfood which refers to a BevNet post where Pickle Juice is described as smelling “like a bio lab during dissections.” I had this vivid mental image of big tubs of pickles bent in horrible shapes and you have to pin them down on the wax tray to get them to lie flat. I may never eat pickles again.

(I got it from Slashfood.)

orach: a vegetable, not a warcraft character

As part of my ongoing experimentation with weird food, I discovered a new vegetable at the farmer’s market this weekend. It was stacked up between the broccoli and the kale and it didn’t have a label. I had to ask the hippie girls behind the table what it was, and the response was: it’s orach. Its an heirloom spinach, they said. I bought two bunches.

From googling I learn that Orach (Atriplex hortensis), is not related to spinach, but its used like spinach. Its sometimes called mountain spinach and is one of the oldest cultivated vegetables. The romans grew it and considered it an aphrodisiac. It was prized in the kitchen gardens of the American settlers and documented in John Lawson’s History of Carolina in 1714.

The plant itself is kind of bushy and weedy, with thick woody stems so you have to clean it (which is kind of pain). The leaves are thin but there are lots of them; it also has a whole lot of tiny flowers clustered at the end of the stem that are kind of bushy raw but the bushiness goes away once they’re cooked and have kind of a crunchy texture. Overall orach has a stronger taste than spinach, but not quite as bitter as chard. Its good. I like it.

For future reference, however, one’s spouse may be somewhat apprehensive if you come home from the market brandishing a pile of weeds and proclaiming excitedly “Look! I bought a strange vegetable for dinner!”